It was a creative peak for David Byrne. Talking Heads were coming off their hugely successful “Remain In Light” album and expanded band tour. Byrne had been collaborating more and more with Brian Eno, much to the chagrin of the rest of the band. By 1981, Byrne and Eno released their experimental “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts” album that mixed samples of found recordings with funk backing tracks. Their landmark use of sampling predated its use in rap and hip hop music. It was within this atmosphere in 1981 that choreographer Twyla Tharpe commissioned David Byrne to compose a score for her dance piece called “The Catherine Wheel.” Byrne composed a 70-minute score that was released in its entirety on CD and cassette, while the vinyl version only featured about 40 minutes of music. For the recording of this project, Byrne gathered many of the musicians who worked with him in the expanded Talking Heads, including Heads member Jerry Harrison on keyboards, Adrian Belew on guitar, Brian Eno on numerous instruments, Yogi Horton on drums, Dolette McDonald on vocals, Steve Scales on percussion and Bernie Worrell, also on keyboards. With the exception of “Eggs In A Briar Patch,” today’s Song Of The Day focuses on some of the incredibly inventive instrumental pieces Byrne composed for the dance. “The Catherine Wheel” opened on September 22, 1981 at the Winter Garden Theater in New York City. Several of the tracks including “Big Blue Plymouth Eyes,” “My Big Hands (Fall Through The Cracks),” “Big Business” and “What A Day That Was” found their way into the Talking Heads’ repertoire and were performed extensively on the band’s 1982-1983 “Stop Making Sense” tour.
By the time of Roxy Music’s third album, “Stranded” in 1973, Brian Eno had left the fold and gone were the atmospheric synthesizer rushes as well as the overall experimental progressive nature of the band. It was replaced with a more straightforward, art-rocking glam-tastic sound with Bryan Ferry at its center. Eno’s replacement was Eddie Jobson, an accomplished keyboard player who had been a member of prog group Curved Air and would go on to perform with the likes of UK, Yes, Jethro Tull and Frank Zappa to name a few. He also freed Ferry from his keyboard duties allowing him to focus on lead vocals as epitomized by this epic-length track recorded at The Royal College Of Art in London in June of 1972. “Stranded” was also the first Roxy album where Phil Manzanera and Andrew Mackay began contributing their own songs to the band, resulting in the band’s first bona-fide classic album. The cover model on “Stranded” was Marilyn Cole, who was a Playmate of the Year and Ferry’s girlfriend of the time.
Former art school students have a funny way of expressing themselves. Like naming an album “Fear Of Music” and including a song like this one that conjures deep seated feelings of dread and ill will. But it doesn’t end there…Byrne numbly mumbles throughout this record asking himself questions like “What is happening to my skin? Where is that protection that I needed?” in another song. “This ain’t no party…this ain’t no disco…this ain’t no fooling around” is another rally cry that adds to the grim picture on Talking Heads’ third aptly titled 1979 platter. It’s a record where “Heaven is a place, a place where nothing ever happens”…albeit, the Heaven in question here is not a final resting place, but a club. Producer, Brian Eno was once again invited to this party and the growth between this album and the one that came before it felt on all levels. The Heads’ palate expanded to include African rhythms and straight-ahead funk and disco. While this was the last album to be created by the core quartet, the song “I Zimbra” pointed towards the future with an expanded lineup that featured numerous percussionists and Robert Fripp on guitar. In other places we’re treated to songs with titles like “Drugs,” “Mind,” “Paper” and “Electric Guitar.” Oh and there were hits too…”Life During Wartime” and “Cities” that filled dance floors around the world.
Not only were Kraftwerk purveyors of early ‘70s progressive rock, they pretty much single handedly invented the electronic Techno-Pop music that paved the way to the dance music we hear today from LCD Soundsystem and Daft Punk. This oft-sampled title track from their 1977 album has popped up in recordings by Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force (“Planet Rock”), De La Soul (“Ghetto Thang”) and Milli Vanilli (“Keep On Running”) to name but a few. David Bowie was profoundly influenced by Kraftwerk during the recording of his album, “Low,” going as far as to name a song “V2 Schneider” referring to Kraftwerk’s Ralph and Florian Schneider in its title. Kraftwerk would return the favor with the lyrics of this track paying homage to both Iggy Pop and David Bowie.